Off to See the Wizard

The Motor City might be in my DNA, but at heart I’m a Needle Rat, living, working, and playing in the shadow of The Space Needle.

Scottish Australian storyteller Meg Philp and her Kiwi storytelling friend Lesley Dowding came to visit last month.

It had been too long since I’d seen Meg, my dear friend for over twenty-five years.  I’d never met Lesley, but she was a storyteller, an author, and a friend of Meg’s, and that was good enough for me.  The timing was perfect, not only for Meg to tell at the Forest Storytelling Festival in Port Angeles, but to catch the peak of autumn color.

First stop, a visit to the beach down the hill from my house, for walking and talking…and talking…and talking…

…and sharing a huckleberry sundae at Anthony’s Beach Cafe.

Lesley, Meg, and I walked back along the beach, three birds of a feather…

…watching the ferries come and go.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Aim a camera, ask someone to jump off a cliff, and she might just do it for the sake of the shot.  Meg and Lesley were such good sports!   Again…

…and again!

I presented my city to them.  We began, of course, with The Space Needle.

The view was worth the trip.

Through the protective bars we admired the paint job on the roof below the Needle.

I LOVE Seattle!

The view inside the belly of the beast was almost as good.

Then there was the Needle’s spiffy biffy.

A quick ride on the monorail took us downtown.

The First Nations permanent art collection at the Seattle Art Museum is superb.

“Going for Gold,” featured golden art objects, including ancient brocades, jewelry, even a Faberge cigarette case.

And remember that camera thing I was telling you about?

Next stop, Pike Place Market.

For lunch…

For dessert, we had LOTS of rainbow-colored eye candy.

Then we had our big night on the town.

Yes, we were off to see the Wizard.  I felt like Dorothy with my very own Yellow Brick Roadies, including my husband Thom, and brother Lew.

The Paramount Theater…

…is elegant and historic, and its patrons…

…very high class!

In our days together we also saw this…


…and the other thing.

Oh, yes…and the OTHER other thing, in an eerie dark alley, well, just spitting distance from the market.

It’s an attraction the way squirrel roadkill or a really big oozy banana slug attracts the eye, even while repulsing other senses you didn’t even know you had.

Yes, I am talking about Seattle’s own Gum Wall, fifty feet high, inches thick.

After years of scraping the wall clean, only to have the gooey gum wads mysteriously reappear that night, it was finally reclassified as a tourist attraction.  It was even voted the second germiest tourist attraction in the world, after The Blarney Stone.  Frankly, I think the Gum Wall should have won, but that’s a sticky wicket, and we won’t go there.  But I will tell you this: it was in the bowels of old Seattle that I realized Lesley and I had formed a friendship that would stick.  You do remember that camera thing I was telling you about?

Wait for it….

Wait for it…

Wait for it….

This one’s for you, Lesley.  I am proud to call you ‘Friend.’

All images and words copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck.
Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Eerie.



  1. Carol says:

    Ummm, yes, I recognize the high class. You know what? Fun class is the best and it looks like you had that in spades!


    1. Dear Carol,
      I had to laugh when I read your comment! We did have lots of fun, I feel very fortunate to have found such compatible playmates! Thanks so much for the visit, and the lift.

  2. Roy McCarthy says:

    Wonderful Naomi, thank you for that tour around Seattle. Your friends were lucky to have you along. Some fascinating sights there, though you’d not catch me up that Needle thing 😦 And a Gum Wall! Must try starting one of those here.

    1. Hi Roy,
      Choose carefully! Once a Gum Wall catches on, there’s no turning back!
      I usually only go up the Needle when I have out of town company that wants to go. And there is a little sense of relief that the Big One, the earthquake we’re expecting sometime in the next 125 years didn’t happen while I was up there.
      Thanks for the visit, Roy.

  3. carrico says:

    “Birds of a feather…………..” Cool to see us ‘older’ folks, “still crazy after all these years.” Next time, take Amtrak down to PDX.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, and taking the time to share your response.
      I think Portland is great. If I couldn’t live in Seattle, Portland would be my next choice. Here is a post that starts out in Portland, and shows a few of our adventures there.

      1. carrico says:

        Hah! Where in the Hades is O’Brien, Oregon? Have you ever heard of the newspaper The Irragon Irrigator (from Irragon, Oregon–may have the spelling wrong). Much has changed in PDX lately, influx of out-of-stater’s and out-of-countryer’s . Speaking of which, I skipped the Cali portion on your link (thanks). Gov. Tom McCall (’70’s) advised tourists by all means, come visit, but don’t stay. Ah, well, time moves on. Peace.

  4. Ruth says:

    Wow what a terrific tour and friendship. Heard about the gum wall but your pics make it real!
    And your pic of the needle in hand is one I could show the students for forced perspective lesson, cool .

    1. Dear Ruth,
      Thank you for the visit, and your very kind response. I am so lucky to have friends who aren’t shy about posing for a photo! And it’s fun to play around with the environment. The shot of Lesley licking the Gum Wall is also a trick of positioning. I had her stand in front of the wall and stick out her tongue, so it just looks like she is about to lick it, but she was not nearly so close as it appears.

  5. I’ve lived in Seattle, so thanks for the trip down memory lane. Although, maybe I left just in time, before that gum wall stuck as a tourist attraction. I generally think odd things are cool, but that is just disgusting. I’m glad you had a nice visit and fun hosting 🙂

    1. I am so glad you could come back for a “visit”! I think the Gum Wall got started in 1993, and they finally surrendered to the will of the public and made it an official tourist destination in 1999. And, yes, it is truly disgusting!

      1. A photo of it was entered in my photo club this week. The photo itself was OK, but the subject just really grosses me out. I’ve been to a lot of “tourist destinations” that have kind of left me scratching my head, but this one makes me want to wash my hands.

  6. What a lovely tour! Fun photos with fun friends.

    1. Thank you, Lisa. I’m glad you could come along!

  7. Looks like a blast. But hey! My blog is “This, that and the other thing.” 🙂


    1. Hi Janet,
      That is such a funny coincidence! I had to go and check out your blog, and I really enjoyed it.

      1. I just saw you did. Your lovely compliments on my photos were appreciated.

  8. scillagrace says:

    Storytellers are not afraid to be animated, even in public! I definitely can go there, theater geek that I am. Some day, my friend, you have to visit Millennium Park in Chicago and mug for me under the chrome Kidney Bean… 🙂

    1. Dear Scilla,
      I would love to have you for a neighbor. Think of the photo walks we could enjoy! Thanks for the visit, and now I have to go to Chicago!

  9. footsy2 says:

    All I know of Seattle is sleepless (and rain). Good to see it through your eyes.

    1. Hi Footsy,
      Seattle is a silver city that runs on caffeine, and has more bookstores per capita than any other big city. Not too hot, not too cold, and except, perhaps, for December, there’s almost always something in bloom.
      I’m glad you could get to know the city a little better. Thanks so much for stopping by, and taking the time to comment.

  10. Wow, it looks like you had an awesome time with your friends! I’ve always wanted to visit Seattle; if ever I do, I’m having you as my tour guide! What a great day; thanks for taking us on your adventure!

    1. Darla,
      If you ever come to Seattle, give me a call and we’ll take a splash around town. Thanks for coming along, and for sharing your delightful response.

      1. I will be sure and do that and you are welcome! 🙂

  11. You definitely hit the highlights. That’s everything I’d want to do on a visit to Seattle, too.

    1. These are the basics, but if you had the time, the Museum of History and Industry and a quick shopping trip at Archie McPhee’s would be great additions to the list.
      Thanks for the visit!

  12. ShimonZ says:

    It seems like a lot of fun to visit with you. And of course, you had a good time too. Sounds delightful.

    1. Dear Shimon,
      A trip to the grocery store can be as much fun as a trip to Disneyland, if you’re with the right people. I’m lucky to have playful and imaginative friends! I’m so glad you could stop by, and it’s always good to hear from you.

      1. ShimonZ says:

        It is always a pleasure visiting your blog. But for me, a trip to Disneyland is torture, There isn’t a thing I like about it, The grocery store isn’t a great pleasure either. I take care of business as quickly as possible. But with friends, it’s easier.

      2. Dear Shimon,

        I took my kids to Disneyland once, many years ago, so they would understand the cultural reference, and they really enjoyed it. They didn’t mind the crowds or the lines, but as you can tell from my posts, they prefer the real world. I don’t mind the grocery store if I have nothing else to do. I always have something else to do, but if I go with a friend, it doesn’t matter what we are doing–we will have a good time.
        I would have loved to be able to tell you how very funny I found your photograph of the horses, and also touching because I am a mom and have been there so many times, but the comments were closed. Dear friend, I hope you are well.

      3. ShimonZ says:

        Thank you very much. I could be better, but it’s a learning situation… and I always enjoy learning, even if it’s hard. Glad you enjoyed the horses.

  13. One of your absolutely very best posts. Send to Seattle Chamber of Commerce. Fantastic!

    1. Howdy, cousin!
      Thanks so much for your visit, and for your very kind response! Maybe they would make my friend Lesley the poster girl for the Gum Wall! So good to hear from you. Please give everyone a hug and best wishes from their cousin up north.

  14. One of those sundaes would go down rather well just about now

    1. Hi Dallas,
      Between you and me, one of those sundaes would down rather well just about any time! Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Cee Neuner says:

    I just put a shot of the Space Needle on my blog today. These are all marvelous photos of Seattle.

    1. Dear Cee,
      I want to check that out! I really enjoy your blog. Thanks so much for the visit.

  16. Madhu says:

    You had me chuckling right through Naomi. Thank you for taking us on the tour with your fun – and brave – friends 🙂

    1. Dear Madhu,
      Thanks for your visit, and for making me smile.

  17. adinparadise says:

    What a fun post, Naomi. I so enjoyed the pics of you goofing around in Seattle. Good for Lesley and the Gum Wall, but count me out. I believe there’s also one of these gum infested walls in Berlin. The Huckleberry sundae looks delicious, and I love picture #10. 🙂

    1. Hi Sylvia,
      Thanks so much for stopping by. I so enjoy knowing which pics appeal to whom. I had never heard of a gum wall before I saw this one. I still shiver to think of it!

  18. Great photo’s and story. I have to admit now, I kissed the germy Blarney Stone.

    1. That is quite an acrobatic feat! I would rather kiss the Blarney Stone than the Gum Wall, but I will never go to Blarney Castle, because I don’t want to be put in that position (pardon the pun!)

  19. I love Girl Days and Girl Time. Girls just wanna have fun–always and forever..
    I was in Seattle once. about 50 years ago, but only to go hangar to drop off a plane for maintenance and then to dinner so, thanks for the tour.

    The ladies know how to have a good time. Thanks for the tour, Naomi. 😉

    1. Dear Tess,

      I love my girlfriends and there’s nothing like it. Seattle has changed a lot in the last fifty years. In fact, it has changed a lot in the last twenty years, but it is still the place of my heart.
      Thanks so much for the visit, and for taking the time to comment.

  20. t2van says:

    You tell the most wonderful photography stories, Naomi! And gross…I had NO idea there was a world famous gum wall in Seattle…might deserve it’s own special trip…

    🙂 Terri

    1. Dear Terri,
      Thank you so much. I’m sure there are thousands of tourists who walk through the market without ever suspecting that the Gum Wall is just below their feet! It’s worth a gander!

  21. pattisj says:

    What a bunch of characters! Looks like you all had a fabulous time.

    1. HI Patti,
      We had a great time-I’m lucky to have such easy-going fun-loving friends.

  22. Millie Ho says:

    You have a talent for capture life, Naomi. I really enjoyed this post! Makes me want to do some traveling (well, maybe in a couple of months). 🙂

  23. Good sports make for good times and entertaining blog posts too! Thanks Naomi – this was a fun tour.

    1. Hi Lesley,
      Thanks so much for coming along, and taking the time to share your response.

  24. Wizard got me under its spell and magic . Exciting place, generous friends and family, thrilling skies and desserts that spins the taste buds. Thanks.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, and for sharing your kind thoughts.

  25. carrico says:

    Seattle’s o.k., especially the market where they sling fish around, and the new downtown library (designed by a Dutch guy), and maybe the train depot, if its finally been renovated, but Portland’s cooler. Our soccer team just slaughtered Seattle’s. By the way, us old PDXer’s pronounce ‘Seattle’ stressing the first syllable. My family lived there right after W.W.II, then moved south. Still visit occasionally. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Hah!

    1. Seattle is my dream city. The library is interesting, and I love the market, the mountains and ocean, and the progressive political environment. I don’t care a bit about sports, but it keeps my husband entertained. I also really like Portland. If Seattle’s soccer team has to lose to another city, I would prefer it to be Portland’s team.

  26. Touch2Touch says:

    Clever, witty, hilarious, disgusting! Your post has it all!
    The Seattle Chamber of Commerce is missing a bet if it doesn’t hire you, Naomi. And you even managed to include the rain!

    1. Thank you! I’ll use your wonderful description on the book cover–if I ever write that story. I so appreciate your visit, and your unique perspective. It is always good to hear from you.

  27. Tina Schell says:

    What a fun post Naomi – I loved it! I also love Seattle and you certainly did a great job of showing some highlights. I do agree w/you the sticky gum wall should DEFINITELY take 1st place for germiest. Hard to believe she let her tongue get even THAT close :-). Some great shots and wonderful plays on words here. Nicely done!

    1. Dear Tina,
      I used a simple trick to achieve this effect. I just had her stand in front of the gum wall and stick out her tongue to give the illusion of proximity. The effect is quite…well, effective!
      Thanks for the visit, and your generous response!

  28. Such a satisfying romp through my fav city – made me homesick!

    1. We still miss you, Cathryn! Thanks so much for the virtual visit.

  29. A lovely visit that is now a wonderful memory for you to always look back on. When friends and family visit the fun times magnify. There is something about the energy that boosts our spirits.
    Thanks for allowing us to view your great visit with your long time friends.

    1. Hi Izzy,
      You are so right! And when I take my friends around to show them my city, I see it afresh through through their eyes, and fall in love with Seattle all over again.
      Thank you so much for your visit, and for sharing your thoughts.

  30. Wonderful and Fun shots, Naomi! Your posts are always such a delight. 🙂 New friends and old friends….both precious ♥ paula

    1. Hi Paula,
      Silver and gold! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing, as always, your generous thoughts.

      1. 🙂 Silver and gold, indeed.

  31. It’s such fun walking and talking, and talking some more with like-minded people.

    As for the Wizard of Oz — I’ve lost count of how many times, as a child, my daughter watched the Judy Garland film of that book. I swear she knew all the script off by heart. The other film that she wore out was Mary Poppins.

    Some stories are so timeless.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Yes, yes, and yes! I really cherish the friendships I have, and we go kick up my heels whenever we can.
      It’s interesting that the Wizard of Oz was the story of your daughter’s heart. I love Mary Poppins too. Your daughter has good taste! Perhaps because I often find myself traveling my own little Yellow Brick Road, at least in my own mind, or because the friends I pick up along the way tend to be unusual and creative, I sometimes feel a little like Dorothy. The Wizard of Oz is timeless, because it speaks a universal truth to us all.

  32. 4amWriter says:

    The Gum Wall would definitely gross me out. I can’t even deal with gum under the kids’ desks at the elementary school. Sounds like this is a friendship whose roots you’ll always remember. 🙂

  33. Jamie Dedes says:

    Wow! Naomi, I never knew about the gum wall. Unique for sure.

    Sounds – and looks – like a fab visit. Nothing like good friends with lots to talk about and even more to do.

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